With football over locally, Saturday is huge day for area college hoops

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Jalen Cook, Darius Days, Derek St. Hilaire
Tulane’s Jalen Cook, LSU’s Darius Days and UNO’s Derek St. Hilaire have important home conference games Saturday.

This weekend, the NFL playoffs begin, without the New Orleans Saints.

Guess what? You have something else worth watching. It’s called men’s college basketball.

If you haven’t been paying attention, there’s plenty of it to watch in southeast Louisiana. And you have a bunch of very good options this Saturday afternoon.

At 1 p.m., you have a choice. The 12th-ranked LSU Tigers, at 15-1 and fresh off a short-handed 64-58 win Wednesday night at Florida, entertain Arkansas at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Tigers were dealt an early-season gauntlet by the SEC schedule-makers, and so far, Will Wade’s club has survived, going 3-1 in league play, including wins over nationally ranked Kentucky and Tennessee last week before Wednesday’s triumph in Gainesville.

A win over the Hogs may vault LSU into the top 10 next week.

Also at 1, just down I-10 at Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse, the suddenly hot Tulane Green Wave welcome in SMU in a battle for second place in the American Athletic Conference.

Ron Hunter’s squad rallied for a thrilling 68-67 victory at Wichita State Wednesday to improve to 4-1 in conference play, a half-game ahead of SMU (3-1), with both teams just behind Houston in the league standings.

By the time those games end, you’ll have time to make it to Lakefront Arena by 4 p.m.

That’s where the University of New Orleans Privateers play host to Nicholls State on the opening day of the Southland Conference regular-season schedule. It’s a matchup of the top two teams in the preseason conference poll.

The Colonels were a slight choice over UNO in the preseason poll and both went 2-1 in the league’s unique tipoff tournament last week in Katy, Texas.

The winner? Southeastern Louisiana, who was picked third in the poll but knocked off Nicholls 77-72 in the championship game last weekend. The Lions host Northwestern State Saturday at 4.

But wait, that’s only NCAA Division I.

New Orleans is home to the top-ranked team in NAIA Division I, the Loyola Wolf Pack. At 16-0, the Pack were a unanimous choice in the NAIA poll once again this week.

Health and safety protocols wiped out the Pack’s scheduled two-game home stand for this week, so you’ll have to wait until Jan. 22 to see Loyola return to action at home against William Carey.

Xavier is ranked 19th this week. The Gold Rush play Wiley Saturday at the Convocation Center, but the university is not currently allowing spectators at home events because of the Omicron surge.

So while most would certainly like to have a Saints telecast on their calendars for this Super Wild Card weekend, there’s a super college basketball Saturday on the local docket to take its place.

  • < PREV Tulane rallies from 16 down to take 68-67 win at Wichita State
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Lenny Vangilder

Sales/Content/Production

Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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